My Baby Won’t Wake Up But She Is Breathing Do I Call 911?

my baby won't wake up but she is breathing

If you’re here reading this article, indeed you’ve experienced that mini heart attack when your newborn baby won’t wake up, but you swear they are breathing.

Being a mother, I have been there. I have freaked out at the fact that my two-month-old was sleeping for five to six hours, and I couldn’t get her to wake up. Eventually, she woke up and everything was fine.

Now, let’s discuss whether this is normal and how common it is. Is there something you should do when something like this happens? What do you do now?

You should know that newborns can be hard to wake up, especially when they are in a deep sleep, which happens quite often. Newborns not waking easily during deep sleep can be perfectly normal. Moreover, typical sounds around the house may not even do it, but it should not be impossible.

Why is My Baby Hard to Wake Up

So why is your baby so hard to wake up when he or she sleeps?

As stated above, newborns or infants tend to take some time before they adapt a proper routine and sleep schedule.

The sleep schedules of babies and adults are quite different. We tend not to take as much time to fall asleep as babies do, and we tend to sleep for a relatively greater time span.

Usually, when a newborn baby sleeps, he or she goes into fairly deep sleep patterns and can be hard to wake up. Maybe this is the reason that your baby is not awoken easily.

However, it is not good for a sleeping baby to not have milk/food for quite some time. Therefore, make sure you wake him or her to feed every two to three hours.

Is it Normal

Yes, though it can be alarming.

A baby sleeping deeply without waking is normal, as long as it is not for an insane amount of time. For example, sleeping for 15-16 hours straight is totally alarming and you should definitely call 911.

Also, knowing your little one’s sleep schedule helps in predicting if it is normal for your baby to sleep for this long or if is it something he or she is doing for the first time.

What Are the Main Reasons Behind This?

Two of the most common reasons behind deeper sleep are hunger and dehydration.

Your baby may be hungry and doesn’t have the energy to move, or he may be too dehydrated to move.

Should You Force a Baby to Wake Up

Being a mom of two, this is one question that I get from my peers and new moms-to-be.

Yes, you can force your baby to wake up when he or she has had enough sleep by rubbing his hands or feet, taking his or her clothes off, gently shaking him or her, and using similar strategies. Do not do anything more aggressive than that, as it could be life-threatening.

If your baby is still not waking up, try calling the nurse at the pediatrician’s office. Trust me, they have heard it all, and they can be of great help without making you feel stupid.

With my second baby, I called the nurse for random questions as many times as I did with my first, and I am glad I took the help.

When Can You Do It

Understanding the science behind baby sleep can be a task. Hence, it’s crucial for young babies that you let them have proper sleep but also educate yourself when it’s not normal.

Some of the signs that can alert you that you need to wake your baby up are when it’s been an abnormal amount of time and you’re worried their blood sugar levels might have dropped or if you notice the color of their hands, feet, or lips changing.

What Happens if a Newborn Won’t Wake Up to Feed?

When it comes to babies’ sleep patterns, there are generally two kinds: light sleep and deep sleep.

If you notice your baby is in a light sleep, he or she will be very easily woken up every hour or two for feeding. However, if your baby falls into a deep sleep, it will be a challenge.

Light Sleep vs. Deep Sleep

During the early months, you will notice your baby experiencing light sleep all the time. You will notice him or her moving and twitching his or her eyes, and he or she wakes up easily. This is the time when your baby’s brain develops and dreams.

Imagine this…

You’re rocking, strolling, or nursing your baby, and your baby’s eyes begin to droop as he or she falls asleep in your arms. You notice the baby’s eyes are entirely closed, yet his or her eyelids flicker and breathing is still uneven.

When hands and limbs are flexed, he or she may startle, twitch, and display transient smiles, dubbed “sleep grins.”

Your baby may even continue sucking in a fluttering motion. He or she awakens and cries just as you lean over to place your “sleeping” baby in the crib so you can tiptoe away silently.

He or she wasn’t completely sleeping. As you laid him or her down, he or she was still in a light nap.

Deep Sleep

On the contrary, deep sleep happens after an hour or so, when your baby’s brain is ready to rest. You won’t notice him or her moving or movement of the eyes. However, make sure your baby is breathing properly.

Oftentimes, it is pretty normal for babies to enter deep sleep and not wake up to feed, but there could be a medical reason, too.

Is Your Baby Lethargic?

One of the biggest symptoms or signs that your baby is lethargic is that he or she can be tough to wake up sometimes. However, once he or she wakes up, he or she should be totally interested in what’s happening around him or her.

How Do I Know If My Baby is Lethargic?

He or she should be interested in eating, playing, and everything happening around him or her, and he or she should not fall back to sleep over and over.

If you notice your baby is way too cranky, refusing to eat as well, and is extremely sleepy, this is your sign that he or she needs medical attention.

When a baby seems drowsy, there are a few things that might be going on that need to be addressed.

First and foremost, an infection might be to fault. RSV was to blame for my son’s tiredness. He had breathing problems and was impacted by the virus, which made him drowsy.

Your youngster may potentially be suffering from low blood sugar. This might be an indication of a more extensive issue that should not be overlooked.

When to Call Emergency

If your baby is experiencing a bulging soft spot on the back of the head, a high fever, or is dehydrated in addition to not waking, call 911:


Usually, when young babies have a fever, it is an indication that the baby has some sort of infection. However, according to doctors, when the head temperature goes above 105 F, it can be an issue on its own. This is one of the reasons your baby is not waking up but breathing. During a fever, it gets exhausting for the baby and he feels too tired to even wake up and respond to you. Remember that you need not compare the unresponsiveness caused by fever with lethargy. These are two different diagnoses.


Dehydration happens when the body does not contain enough fluid. This usually happens when your baby has vomited, doesn’t take his feed, or, when he’s old enough, hasn’t had his proper water intake. During times like these, you need to keep an eye on the urine cycle of your baby in order to identify the problem. Keep in mind that for newborns or young babies, at least 10-12 wet diapers a day is normal. If this is not occurring, take your baby to the hospital.

Take Away

Newborns sleep a lot, about 14-17 hours each day. They can sleep for two to four hours at a time and will usually be conscious for an hour to 90 minutes before their next nap. If your child isn’t waking up as easily as he or she used to, trust your intuition and seek expert help to figure out why. It is normal and common in babies, but always make sure you check the breathing of your baby is normal. If you think anything is unusual, always seek help from a nurse or pediatrician.

Stephanie Edenburgh

I'm Steph, a mom to 3 beautiful children and lover all things having to do with my family and being a mom. I've learned a lot raising my own children and working in education and healthcare roles throughout my career. Living in beautiful Southern California I enjoy documenting and writing about all of the hard work us mom's do on a daily basis.

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